Screen version of the
classic Broadway musical, starring Bette Midler as a domineering
stage mother determined to make stars of her daughters. With Peter
Stars: Bette Midler,
Peter Riegert, Cynthia Gibb, Jennifer Beck, Ed Asner, Linda Hart
Director: Emile Ardolino
J. O'Connor, Publication Unknown
coming up roses? As far as Bette Midler is concerned, absolutely.
An extensive concert tour, "Experience the Divine",
has reaped rave reviews and lively ticket sales. She won an Emmy
Award for singing to Johnny Carson on his next-to-last "Tonight
Show" appearance. And now looks like a shoo-in for another
Emmy for her performance as mama Rose in CABS splendid recreation
of the 1959 Broadway musical, "Gypsy". The special three-hour
broadcast, Sunday at 8 p.m., perfectly defines the concept of
The first Mama Rose was Ethel Merman, using her last appearance
in a Broadway show to crown a legendary career with her most memorable
performance. In the process, she bequeathed a fearsome hurdle
to all subsequent productions. A movie version of "Gypsy",
starring Rosalind Russell, never stood a chance. Some stage productions,
most notably those starring Angela Lansbury and Tyne Daly, held
their own admirably. But the special Merman imprint lingered as
a kind of theatrical Everest that would never be scaled in quite
the same way again. Until now. Miss Midler appears to have been
made for this role of primal stage mother. Rose is a monster,
pure and simple, trying to realize her own frustrated ambitions
through the incessant pushing and manipulating of her daughters,
June and Lousie. In pursuit of her dream, a rather puny fantasy
of vaudeville stardom, Rose is shameless, lying, scheming, swiping
the silverware from restaurants, sneaking Chinese food into cheap
hotel rooms. Ordinary life may be peachy for some people, some
humdrum people, but not Rose, she warns in one song.
The woman is anything but lovable. But it is the genius of Arthur
Laurent's book, Julie Styne's music and Stephen
Sondheim's lyrics that her sheer energy and determination can
leave audiences in a state approaching awe. From the moment she
storms into a Seattle audition for child performers shouting,
"Sing out, Louise's, sing out!", Miss Midler's Rose
exudes enough brass to satisfy the most demanding of Merman's
fans. This Rose can toss off wisecracks with finesse and belt
a lyric into the rafters.
She also reveals a more complex side of herself in the show's
quieter moments, more of the sad woman who has been rejected by
three husbands and even by her own parents. By the time she gets
to "Rose's Turn", the show's powerfully bitter finale,
Miss Midler has made Rose her very own. the audience can't help
but agree with Louise, now a star as Gypsy Rose Lee, when she
tells Mama, "You really would've been something."
directed with love by the late Emile Ardolino (Dirty Dancing", "George
Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker'"), the lavish production is painstaking, from
Bonnie Walker's re-creations of Jerome Ronbbin's original choreography to Bob
Mackie's snazzy costumes. the supporting cast is strong, from major roles (Peter
Riegert as Herbie the manager, Cynthia Gibb as Louise, Jennifer Back as Dainty
June, and Christine Ebersole as the stripper Tessie Tura) to choice cameos (Edward
Asner as Rose's father, Michael Jeter as Mr. Goldstone, Andrea martin as a show
the end, Rose just wants to be noticed, Miss Midler makes sure of that in the
performance of her career. So far.
Bev and Terri!!!!
Remounting "Gypsy" for TV is no easy
task. It requires guts to put on a musical in the face of general public apathy
toward the form. It also takes faithfulness to the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim
classic score, staging that won't get lost in TV's 19-inch landscape and, most
important, an actress in the role of Mama Rose with the charisma and skill to
make viewers forget Ethel Merman, who originated and defined the part. This new
production, headed by Bette Midler in the role she was born to play, succeeds
on those counts and sets itself up as a potential holiday perennial.
Rose is explosive, riveting and impossible, yet impossible not to love. Younger
and feistier than Merman's Rose, with much of the insanity that marked Tyne Daly's
1989 stage revival, Midler presents a stage mother who loves and tortures her
two daughters with equal vigor. In the early going, she relies a bit too heavily
on her live-show shtick, emphasizing Rose's humor over her menacing intensity.
She's funny and spirited as she woos skeptical Herbie (Peter Riegert) and as she
relentlessly pushes her daughters (Cynthia Gibb and Jennifer Beck as the adult
Louise and June, respectively) through their none-too-thrilling act.
Still, you can't help falling for Rose as she stands in the wings miming Baby
June (Lacey Chabert) and Baby Louise's (Elisabeth Moss) act. Midler makes you
feel the agony of this frustrated performer, forced to hector her girls into being
But Midler really hits her stride when June abandons
the act, forcing Rose to turn to the resilient but reluctant -- and not particularly
talented -- Louise. Bouncing back from this latest of many abandonments, Rose
sings the show-stopping "Everything's Coming Up Roses," leaving the
audience -- to say nothing of Louise and Herbie -- breathless at her spirit and
terrified by her increasingly obvious mental instability.
next to this bravura performance is no simple task, but this ensemble is largely
successful. Riegert holds his own against Midler as the mostly meek Herbie, even
showing off decent vocal chops on a couple of numbers. Christine Ebersole, Linda
Hart and Anna McNeely are delicious as the strippers who inform Louise that "You've
Gotta Have a Gimmick."
And Gibb gives a star-making performance
as Louise. Although overshadowed by Rose, Louise is in some ways a harder part
to play; she needs to seem an inept wallflower who blossoms into a confident,
beautiful Rose Louise -- later dubbed Gypsy Rose Lee as she embarks on her stripping
career. Gibb pulls this off skillfully, conveying the character's inner goodness,
The only problem, ironically, is that Gibb is too
pretty -- even as Louise, wearing the front half of a cow costume -- which takes
away some of the impact from her metamorphosis into Gypsy.
actors such as Edward Asner, Andrea Martin, Michael Jeter and Tony Shalhoub show
up with what are basically cameos: They must have been thrilled to be associated
with this classy production. Rocker-turned-actress Rachel Sweet, meanwhile, makes
the most of her small role as the weepy, squeaky-voiced Agnes.
fifth major production of the backstage musical about the early life of burlesque
star Gypsy Rose Lee
(Rosalind Russell starred in the 1962 film version and Angela Lansbury headed
the 1971 stage revival) also works by staying faithful to the can't-miss material
-- including Arthur Laurents' witty book and original director Jerome Robbins'
choreography. There's no attempt to modernize the presentation, no forced effort
to bend the material to bring in the MTV audience, no needless attempt to open
up the stage show beyond the confines of the theater stage.
the late Emile Ardolino employs an effective yet inconspicuous directing style
that simply lets the TV audience watch the show from the best seats in the house.
You watch from a comfortable distance the cheesy act by Dainty June and her Farm
Boys, a convincing argument for the death of vaudeville. And you see the agony
and desire in Louise's face up close as Farm Boy Tulsa sings and dances "All
I Need Is the Girl," one of the show's highlights.
Jackson De Govia's
production design and Ralf Bode's cinematography present the story in the quasi-reality
of soundstage-set productions.
The not-quite-real feel is perfectly
suited to this hard to imagine yet fact-based story of that most resilient of
impossible dreams: showbiz success. An even bigger dream -- and bigger joy --
is the resurrection of the legendary Broadway show in the unlikely venue of network
television. To paraphrase Rose, it leaves you feeling swell, feeling great.
TV redrafting of the classic musical of the American stage bumps and grinds its
way to entertainment ecstasy under the buoyant direction of the late Emile Ardolino.
clocking in at three hours, this video version does play too long, losing the
momentum established early on. Yet this production endeavors to remain true to
a sense of Broadway, all the while "opening up'' things so the story of a
shy young woman and her assertive stage mom unfolds in a tinted, technicolorish
world that also pays homage to the romantic nostalgia of the silver screen.
"Gypsy'' rates as "blue-chip'' television, the sort of broadcast burnished
with the luster of "quality'' and "merit,'' designed to stand out from
the field of usual primetime telefeatures.
as Mama Rose, the woman behind the girl, is Bette Midler, portraying an iron-willed
soul who knows from the get-go that stardom is her daughter's destiny, the fates
be damned. Midler marshals a fierce determination, giving us a matriarch with
moxie who is ruthless when it comes to pushing her kid into the limelight.
she is surely commanding, one wishes the actress had toned down the act at points,
providing us with some subtleties of character, e.g. introspective tenderness,
rather than the constant output of sturm und drang emotions.
addition to telling everyone in sight what to do, Rose's willful nature asserts
itself when her pa (Edward Asner) poo-poos Rose's aspirations for a show biz career
for daughters Louise (Cynthia Gibb) and June (Jennifer Beck). Rose then gathers
the girls and hits the road, eventually connecting with a candy salesman and former
agent named Herbie (Peter Riegert), who winds up representing Rose's offspring.
reach a crisis when June, the daughter Rose really had targeted for stardom, elopes
with a dancer
in the troupe. However, Mama realizes there's still Louise, whom she now will
make into the star performer, the one who became Gypsy Rose Lee.
"big break'' occurs when she suddently takes the place of a burlesque stripper
who has been arrested. Yet as her daugther's fame increases -- now a celebrated
clothes-taker-offer monikered Gypsy Rose Lee -- Rose finds herself ever more isolated
and alone. For she recognizes that the notoriety she wanted for her daughters
is really something she desperately needed herself. Yet at film's end, mother
and daughter reach an understanding about what had to be.
renewed yet respectful version of an American classic that despite its overlong
playtime lustily dances on its own, CBS's "Gypsy'' delivers the goods. Supporting
cast members Riegert and Gibb serve the production well, the former a much-needed,
artfully understated presence, the latter adding subtextural ballast to the overall
despite her all too outsized rendering, bet on Bette for Emmy honors as the mom
with stick-to-it grit and vibrant voice who lived through her kids. Indeed, one
suspects this TV film will claim many an honor, given Ardolino's exuberant direction
and his unbridled exhilaration toward this musical enterprise.
musical in this day and age? Whatever next? Extremely colourful, and with warmth
and affection in many of its performances, this is nevertheless a slightly strained
version of the old chestnut, and difficult to relax with. Bette Midler might have
been born to play the part of the stage mother who, frustrated in her desires
for stardom, pushes her two untalented daughters into vaudeville. Midler really
gets her teeth into the role of Mama Rose and, if her singing is sometimes not
at its best, she enjoys some inspired moments on the acting front. Peter Riegert
is quietly excellent (although he can't sing) as the agent who loves her, and
Cynthia Gibb entirely competent as Louise in a role that gives its actress little
chance to shine. The songs are melodic and one includes the classic line: 'Soon
this bum'll be Beau Brummell'. Rhymes like that are worth waiting to hear.